Fair Shot: A book review by Bob Morris (2/20)

Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn
Chris Hughes
St. Martin’s Press (February 20, 2018)

Why, “dollar for dollar, the most effective intervention for economic justice is the simplest”: guaranteed income

Opinions are divided — sometimes sharply divided — about Chris Hughes’s assertion that a guaranteed income is the most powerful tactic available to achieve a strategic goal in the U.S. and elsewhere by substantially reducing and eventually eliminating economic inequality. More specifically, “An income floor of $500 per month for every working  adult whose family makes less than $50,000 would improve the lives of 90 million Americans and lift 20 million out of poverty overnight.” Those who disagree with this concept must be as well-prepared to defend their position as Hughes is to defend his.

As I worked my way through Hughes’s narrative, I was especially interested in the details of his journey through school and college, his association with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, his experiences with the Millennial Villages” project in Kenya’s North Eastern province, then involvement with the Obama presidential campaign in 2008. After the successful Facebook IPO, he had begun to question how much do he and countless others “deserve” their their success and what role forces outside had played. “Was my experience at Facebook unique, or was it just one example of something much bigger going on?” These details provide a context within which a realization occurred later: “The Millennial Villages came to represent for me an approach to combating economic injustice and poverty that was about engineering progress from the top down, rather than respecting the agency and autonomy of the people you set out to empower.”

As a father of four and grandfather of twelve, I identify with Chris Hughes’s concluding remarks during which he observes, “I will have failed as a parent if our son does not realize what he owes to other people and to the world around him. ” What will he tell his son? Most of it is best provided within the narrative, in context, but I do want to share a brief excerpt that touched my heart: “I will tell him that the same forces that made our fortune possible made it very difficult for the rest of America to get ahead. My hope is that I will also be able to tell him that I spent the rest of my life helping to give others a fair shot.”

Many of us agree with Hughes that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) could serve as a framework to ensure that almost every American can have “the freedom and dignity that a stable, reliable income affords.” However compelling that vision is, however, the  current partisanship in government will not allow it to become a reality.

The legislative process will remain gridlocked and gutless unless and until others are involved in that process.


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